Google's Android has overtaken Microsoft Windows for the first time as the world's most popular operating system in terms of total internet usage across desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile combined.

The figures, compiled by Irish web analytics company StatCounter, show that Android topped the worldwide OS internet usage market share in March with 37.93%, putting it marginally ahead of Windows  (37.91%) for the first time.

StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said the data represent "a milestone in technology history and the end of an era.

"It marks the end of Microsoft's leadership worldwide of the OS market which it has held since the 1980s.

"It also represents a major breakthrough for Android which held just 2.4% of global internet usage share only five years ago."

In Ireland, Windows remains the leading OS, but it has fallen to 36.3% in March from 44% in the same month last year while its rivals, Android and iOS have made headway.

Android has risen to 28% from 22.5%. Apple's iOS is in third on 26%, up from 22% in March last year.

Mr Cullen said that main drivers of the breakthrough were growth of smartphones to access the internet, a decline in sales of traditional PCs and the impact of Asia on the global market.

However, Windows still dominates the worldwide operating system desktop market (PC and laptop), with an 84% internet usage share in March.

The StatCounter CEO said it will "be difficult for Microsoft to make inroads in mobile but the next paradigm shift might give it the opportunity to regain dominance.

"That could be in Augmented Reality, AI, Voice or Continuum (a product that aims to replace a desktop and smartphone with a single Microsoft powered phone)."

In North America Windows (all versions) maintained its lead across all platforms with 39.5% share in March followed by iOS (25.7%) and Android (21.2%), while in Europe Windows is also dominant, with a 51.7% share - more than twice the level of Android (23.6%).

However, in Asia, Android is on 52.2%, compared with 29.2% for Windows.